My Data Is Bigger Than Yours
Furious over how some marketers just don’t get it, I was trying to reason with this client on why we had to do something about the social obesity of their digital assets. They just couldn’t get over the fact that I called their Facebook page “FAT”.
“But our engagement rate is through the roof” he slammed, comparing the engagement rate of his page with that of his direct competition (both of which are way below industry norms locally and globally). It seems as if we get more stupid when confronted with an interpretation of our beloved data that we don’t agree with. In fact, researchers claim our intelligence is diminishing as we no longer need it to survive especially at the workplace!
“No, you are stupid! Why would I want to have less fans than my competition?” he was angry now!
Why can’t we understand a simple truth; all the research data in the world means nothing if one does not look at it in the right context. We are not passive consumers of data and technology. We shape the role it plays in our lives and the way we make meaning from it, but to do that, we have to pay as much attention to how we think as to how we collect data. We have to ask questions, and hard questions, to move past counting things to understanding them. We’re constantly bombarded with stories about how much data there is in the world, but the real challenges are of interpreting it. Size isn’t everything. There’s also the speed at which it moves and reshapes the landscape around us.
Facts are stupid things when misused; willfully or otherwise!
We always have the opportunity to try and make meaning out of it ourselves, because frankly, data doesn’t create meaning. We do. So as marketers, as consumers, as publicists, as bloggers, we have a responsibility to spend more time focusing on our critical thinking skills. Why? Because at this point in our history, as we’ve heard many times over, we can process nth-bytes of data at lightning speed, and we have the potential to make bad decisions far more quickly, efficiently, and with far greater impact than we did in the past. Great, right? So what we need to do instead is spend a little bit more time on things like the humanities and sociology, the social sciences, rhetoric, philosophy and ethics, because they give us context that is so important for data and because they help us become better critical thinkers. After all, if I can spot a problem in an argument, it doesn’t matter whether it’s expressed in words or in numbers. And this means teaching ourselves to find those confirmation biases, false correlations and being able to spot a naked emotional appeal from kilometers away!
What this also means is questioning disciplines like demographics. They’re based on assumptions (and you know that ‘ass u me’ bit) about who we all are based on our gender and our age and where we live as opposed to data on what we actually think and do. And since we have this data, we need to be clear about our hypotheses, the methodologies that we use and our confidence in the result.
To sum it up, what it really means is asking ourselves the hardest of questions: Did the data really show me this, or does the result make me feel more successful and more comfortable?
Credits: Susan Etlinger’s TedTalk on BigData
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COO Blitz Advertising
Umair has a strategic planning and leadership background with proven expertise in strategic brand management and marketing communication planning.